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Original or Reprint? A Guide to Noteworthy Newspaper Issues

Boston Gazette & Country Journal

March 12, 1770

Among the six newspapers published in Boston in 1770, The Boston Gazette and Country Journal of March 12, 1770, published by Edes & Gill, gave the fullest account of the Boston Massacre which had occurred on March 5. Its story was set between heavy mourning leads and illustrated with four coffins from a woodcut made from lead by Paul Revere (PDF) External. There were two four-page editions of the Gazette for March 12, 1770. The first edition was accompanied by a Supplement of the same date carrying advertising. The second edition had pages 1, 2, and 3 identical to the first edition, but page 4 carried advertising taken in part from page 4 of the first edition and in part from the Supplement.

To distinguish these two editions, it is only necessary to note the first item on page 4, column 1. The first edition states, "To the New England Man," and the second edition, "Just published and sold by Edes & Gill . . . North-American Almanack, and Massachusetts Register, for the Year 1770."

There are a dozen or more spurious reprints of the second edition, but they are not exact facsimiles. Owners of such reprints should compare them with the following details from the original (reprints will vary from these details):

  • In the caption beneath the title on page 1, "freshest" is set with 2 old-style letters "s"
  • Page 1, column 1, the two-line quotation from Shakespeare has the first line indented farther than the second
  • Page 1, column 1, paragraph 1, line 5 ends with "has"
  • Page 1, column 1, paragraph 2, line 3, first word is "production," not "publication"
  • Page 1, column 2, paragraph 8 (third from bottom), line 3 ends with "Lillie," instead of carrying last syllable, "lie," down to the fourth line with resulting displacement of "all" and "&" in the two following lines

The line-up of the paragraphs on pages 2 and 3 of all reprints examined differs greatly from that of the original:

  • Page 2, column 2, last line in original, "of this horrid Massacre, the Bells were set a Ringing and"
  • Page 2, column 3, last line in original, "Meeting was Dissolved."
  • Page 3, column 1, paragraph 1, last line in original, "in the Commander's Assurances have happily prevented."
  • Page 3, column 1, paragraph 2, last line in original, "the bloody Massacre of the Monday Evening preceeding!"
  • Page 3, column 1, paragraph 3, last line in original, "surpass Description."

The reprints differ from the original in many if not all these details. The commercial value of the reprints is very small.

Source: Information Circular 4 (Revised 1957).

Library Holdings

The Library of Congress has an original first edition issue as well as copies of the second edition and the Supplement to the first edition; these copies are photostats made from the original copies belonging to the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston (online catalog record).